Mike Stopka joins Facilities Services as director of sustainability unit

September 2014

Facilities Services is pleased to welcome Mike Stopka as the second director of the six-year old Office of Sustainability. Recently, the office bid farewell to founder Ilsa Flanagan, who began the transformation of how the University’s views and addresses issues relating to sustainability. Stopka looks to build on that solid foundation by increasing the visibility of sustainable programming on campus through unique events, initiatives, and practices that will enrich and inspire the University of Chicago campus community

The office will also continue to pursue ongoing critical initiatives, such as the University’s Strategic Sustainability Plan, Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Reduction plan, and growing engagement with the students, faculty and staff and residents of the greater Hyde Park and Woodlawn communities.

Stopka joins the University with a deep background in sustainability-related programming. Most recently, Stopka founded and led the sustainable department at Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB), an architecture design firm here in Chicago. He also oversaw research efforts and collaborated on all energy, water and waste efficiency projects. While at SCB, Stopka collaborated on a variety of energy efficiency projects with clients such as the U.S. Department of Energy, Oberlin College and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Stopka also was instrumental in leading a team that partnered with Argonne National Laboratory to win a $450,000 research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a new methodology for achieving deep energy retrofits in existing buildings. This was significant because, in general, deep energy reduction strategies primarily occur in the design of new buildings, not existing buildings.

In addition to his expertise in the built environment, Stopka brings an emphasis on effective engagement and communications to drive change and enrich our sustainable culture. His focus is not on reinventing systems, but rather providing consistent education and opportunities for collaboration to help others identify untapped potential in existing systems. 
“Sustainability doesn’t need to be about creating new technologies, but rather optimizing processes and programs we already have can be much quicker, more affordable and more fruitful,” Stopka said.

“I’ve been personally and professionally driven to expand my role beyond the built environment and to more broadly engage and educate, develop resources and drive sustainable change in a broader context. The rigorous, data driven approach at the University of Chicago fosters a rare setting to create real, measurable sustainable change.”

Stopka earned his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies from the University of Illinois-Champaign and a Master of Architecture from Clemson University. His love for drawing geometric patterns translated into a focus in architecture early in high school and then college, where his interest in conservation and sustainability grew. A local resident of Chicago, Stopka enjoys outdoor activities with his wife and three children.

“Whenever possible my family loves to camp, fish and be outside together,” he said. “I enjoy biking to work, designing websites, good coffee and hearing my children laugh.”

Stopka’s office is located on the 10th floor of Harper Court. He can be reached at mstopka@uchicago.edu or 773.834.8508.

-- By Freddy Izguerra, Sustainable Engagement Coordinator